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June 30, 2010
Parasite Suspected in Minor Dove Die-offs
AUSTIN — Avian trichomoniasis, a naturally-occurring parasite, is the likely cause of minor dove die-offs observed recently from South Texas to the Panhandle, suggest Texas Parks and Wildlife Department biologists.
“It’s a fairly common occurrence, but folks should be aware of it,” said Corey Mason, TPWD dove program leader.
Trichomonas gallinae is a single cell protozoan common in nature that circulates within bird populations. Trichomoniasis is considered by many avian disease specialists to be the most important disease of doves in North America. Outbreaks at bird feeding stations and similar locations reported to the National Wildlife Health Center have occurred from coast-to-coast within the United States.
Epizootics due to T. gallinae can happen year-round, but most outbreaks have been reported during late spring, summer and fall. Because oral lesions often affect the ability of the bird to feed, infected birds lose weight, appear listless, and stand grouped together.
Avian trichomoniasis poses no human health risks; however, precautions should always be taken when handling sick or dead birds.
Mason said because this parasite is transmitted through cross-feeding and bill contact, impacts to dove populations can be minimized by taking precautionary measures, including removal of dead birds and temporary removal of artificial water and feed or routine cleaning of artificial watering areas and replenishing bird feeders with fresh feed daily. Platforms and other surfaces where feed may collect, including the area under feeders, should be frequently decontaminated with 10 percent solution of household bleach in water.
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